Liberal Criticisms.

Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.

Last updated 11/20/10.

"Liberal" is a term with many definitions, but here we'll use it in a classical liberal sense to refer to those who endorse political freedom through democratic republics, as opposed to libertarianism where political freedom is ideologically limited or prohibited.


Robert Nozick, Libertarianism, And Utopia
A distillation of a few of Jonathan Wolff's arguments showing a few invalid criticisms of Nozick, and concluding with how Nozick would reinvent the past.
I'm Still Not a Libertarian
Paul Kienitz' revised essay provides a good, big-picture introduction to the basic reasons why libertarianism is unworkable.
With Liberty and Justice for Some
by Ernest Partridge. An excellent, short, big-picture criticism of libertarianism. It first criticizes libertarianism in general, and then with respect to environmental problems.
Environmental Justice and "Shared Fate"
by Ernest Partridge. A refutation of libertarian dismissals of fair compensation for environmental injustice.
Libertarianism, Property & Harm.
Chapter 2 of James Boyle's unpublished "Net Total: Law, Politics and Property in Cyberspace". Thoroughly dismantles three libertarian approaches to the problem of harms: [common] law, natural rights, and property.
The Internet and the Abiding Significance of Territorial Sovereignty
by Jack Goldsmith. Shows why it is both desirable and practical for territorial governments to regulate the internet. See also the other related articles in Indiana Journal of Global Studies Volume 5 Issue 2 Spring 1998.
Liberals and Libertarians #1
How libertarians misrepresent themselves as classical liberals by focusing on means, not ends. Part of a new site about Classical Liberals. (Archived version here.)
Property Theory, Property Rights, and Market Socialism
Michael Robertson describes market socialism, a so-called third way between capitalism and communism.
Is government eeevil? We Have Met the Gummint And He Is Us.
Mark Rosenfelder points out the paradox that only people with really good government could think they didn't need it. Good commonsense.
Smashing the State: the strange rise of libertarianism.
Gary Kamiya's introductory Salon Magazine article on libertarianism. Starts off sounding credulous, but in the second section turns damning.
Why I Am Not a Libertarian
Jonathan Wallace's personal understanding of why libertarianism is insufficient and wrong. An article from The Ethical Spectacle.
The Libertopia Meme
Jamie McCarthy points out that libertarians seem to desire artificial selection criteria for economic, not humanistic purposes.
A Critique Of Libertarianism.
James Hammerton's criticisms of Nozick and Hayek's ideas. Excellent philosophical rebuttals of some libertarian axioms.
Paulina Borsook's Mother Jones article on the ingratitude of Silicon Valley libertarians for the system that created their environment.
Of greed, technolibertarianism and geek omnipotence.
An interview with Paulina Borsook about her book "Cyberselfish", where she skewers high-tech libertarianism.
Rules That Liberate
Robert Kuttner's American Prospect article discussing shallow libertarian notions of liberty and how they affect our daily lives.
You're Not the Boss of Me!
Brooke Shelby Biggs informally, but accurately, characterizes libertarianism as "self-serving, immature hypocrisy". Calls a spade a spade. A Hotwired article.
Liberty, Libertarians and Legalization
Amod Lele explains how libertarians prefer private, unaccountable restrictions to accountable government restrictions.
When Theft is Moral
Amod Lele examines the assumptions behind "theft", observing the coercion that underlies all property.
Libertarianism Makes You Stupid
Seth Finkelstein has written a clear, concise explanation of the major flaws of libertarian ideological "reasoning". Look past the insulting title: you will see the ideologues' playbook. An article from The Ethical Spectacle.
Liberalism and socialism: a case study of philosophical factions on the Internet.
Richard Davies shows how the "philosophical" principle "Everyone should be free to do as they please, as long as their actions don't harm anyone else" is so ridiculously vague that socialists can accept it also.
An Open Letter to a Libertarian
Ronald W. Garrison explains libertarianism as a superficial yuppie ideology that overlooks the interests of non-yuppies, and those who are not in the corporate elite.
Why I'm Not a Libertarian
Travis Stansel takes libertarians to task for excessive market orientation. From Conscious Chocie magazine.
Of the Functions of Government in General
J. S. Mill, a REAL classical liberal, explains at great length why "protection against force and fraud" is too simplistic a standard.
Of the Grounds and Limits of the Laisser-faire or Non-interference Principle
J. S. Mill, a REAL classical liberal, provides a strong defense of laissez-faire, but then starts cataloging exceptions such as education, regulating monopolies, limiting rights of contract for adults and children, regulation of working hours, public charity (welfare), higher education and research.
The Meaning Of Freedom?
Sean Gonsalves takes on "free-market" propaganda with Adam Smith.
Why is libertarianism wrong?
Paul Treanor's very European-style analysis.
Libertarian Follies
Amitai Etzioni makes a communitarian critique of Tibor Machan and the failings of economic models of human behavior.
Economic Utopia and its Handmaidens
Evan Jones details the harmful invasion of libertarian ideas into Australia, and gets in good shots against Hayek and Oakeshott.
Libertarianism and Poverty
Dennis Loo makes the case that libertarians claims about poverty fail on moral, econometric, and historical grounds. From The Ethical Spectacle .
Why I am not a Libertarian
Professor Steven Dutch says: "In short, they combine the personal irresponsibility of liberals with the social, economic and environmental irresponsibility of conservatives." Nicely supported with quotes from the LPUSA platform.
No Libertarians in the Seventeenth-Century Highlands
Brad DeLong ridicules a debate held at the Reason magazine 35th anniversary banquet.
The Future of Government: Mixed Economy or Minimal State?
John Quiggin points out that historical experience shows when states perform better than private industry, and thus economies should be mixed.
Democracy For $ale: Libertarian Paradise
Jack Miller points out that Somalia has all the features a libertarian wants.
NEW 6/06: What's Wrong With Libertarianism
Mark Rosenfelder gives a wonderful overview of libertarianism and how many ways it fails to be realistic, honest, or helpful. He points out several sniff tests for whether libertarianism makes sense.
NEW 2/07: How To Explain Things to Libertarians
A good description of the wierd feeling you get, why you get it, and how to deal with it. A great parody of the quiz, too. An enormous response in agreement.
NEW 9/07: The Dickensian Dystopia
David Packman's criticisms of libertarian fantasies, based on history of company towns, propertarianism, enclosure of commons, slavery, and feudal tendencies.
NEW 7/10: Regulation and the Theory of Market and Government Failure
Nobel Prize winner (economics) Joseph Stiglitz explains that government can improve economic efficiency because real markets don't have the properties of ideal markets. Technical, but not mathematical.

Print References

The links here are to, through their associates program, primarily because of the review information. Books without links are generally out of print, and can often be easily found at AddAll Used and Out Of Print Search. Good sites for bargain shopping for sometimes expensive new books are Online Bookstore Price Comparison and AddAll Book Search and Price Comparison. Both of those list applicable coupons. Another is

A. B. Atkinson "The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State"
MIT Press, 1999. Points out unintended negative side effects of reduction of government.
Nicholas Barr "The Economics of the Welfare State"
Stanford University Press, 1999. A thorough overview of the real world economics of market failures and government interventions. Click here for a review.
Norman P. Barry "On Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism"
MacMillan 1987
Paulina Borsook "Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech"
A thorough and humorous skewering of the libertarian pretensions of the digerati.
Charles Derber "Corporation Nation: How Corporations Are Taking Over Our Lives, And What We Can Do About It"
St. Martin's Press 1998. Ascendency of corporate power is decried as illiberal, and a new positive populism is prescribed.
William A Edmundson "Three Anarchical Fallacies : An Essay on Political Authority"
Cambridge University Press 1998. Exposes fallacies inspired by the ideas of obedience, coercion, and intrusion. Challenges many assumptions of libertarians and others.
Barbara H. Fried "The Progressive Assault On Laissez Faire: Robert Hale And The First Law And Economics Movement"
Harvard University Press 1998. The first, full-length study of Hale's work, which showed that "private", unregulated economic relations were in fact determined by a state imposed regime of property and contract rights which were hard to square with common-sense notions of social justice.
Willard Gaylin and Bruce Jennings "The Perversion of Autonomy : The Proper Uses of Coercion and Constraints in a Liberal Society"
Free Press, 1996. Discusses the balance in a liberal society between the autonomy of the individual against the responsibility of individuals toward the community at large.
John Gray "Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment"
Routledge 1994. John Gray once held views very close to libertarianism, but in this book he repudiates both neoclassical liberalism and libertarianism. Chapter 3, "The Moral Foundations of Market Institutions" contains some strong criticisms of the libertarian position.
John Gray "False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism"
New Press 1999. A critique of the politics of neo-liberalism that shows the ideological connections between neo-liberalism and Marxism.
Alan Haworth "Anti-Libertarianism: Markets, Philosophy, and Myth"
Routledge 1994.
Stephen Holmes, Cass Sunstein "The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes"
W. W. Norton 1999. Legally enforceable rights cost money, a fact ignored by libertarian ideologues.
William E. Hudson "American Democracy in Peril"
Chatham House, 1996. Chapter 3 "The second challenge: radical individualism" has a subsection "The flaws of libertarianism."
Roland Kley "Hayek's Social and Political Thought"
Oxford University Press 1994. Shows that Hayek's concept of a spontaneous order doesn't stand up to scrutiny, undermining a body of theory libertarians often draw upon to show that free markets work.
Robert Kuttner "Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets"
Knopf, 1997. Why mixed economies would outperform pure markets. Essential for countering libertarian economic arguments.
Will Kymlicka "Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction"
Oxford University Press, 1991. Now the standard text in the field; very highly regarded. Has a long chapter on libertarianism. Not at all kind to it.
Stephen L. Newman "Liberalism at Wits' End: The Libertarian Revolt Against the Modern State"
Cornell University Press in 1984
Elton Rayack "Not So Free To Choose"
An extensive criticism of Milton Friedman's economic and social philosophy.
Thomas A. Spragens, Jr. "The Limitations of Libertarianism."
Responsive Community (Spring 1992)45-47. (Part 2.)
James P. Sterba "Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy"
Wadsworth, 1994. His chapter on libertarianism makes the argument that, "... the right to a social minimum endorsed by welfare liberals is also required by the libertarian's own ideal of liberty."
James P. Sterba "Morality in Practice"
Fifth edition, Wadsworth, 1997. Another statement of the above argument. A longer version of this article will appear as "Reconciling Liberty and Equality or Why Libertarians must be Socialists" in Liberty and Equality, edited by Larry May and Jonothan Schonsheck (MIT, 1996).
Cass Sunstein "Free Markets and Social Justice"
(Oxford Univ. Press 1997). Takes on the claims of the Law and Economics camp, libertarians such as Epstein and Posner.
Rick Tilman "Ideology and Utopia in the Social Philosophy of the Libertarian Economists (Contributions in Economics and Economic History, No. 223)"
(Greenwood Publishing Group 2001). Challenges libertarian definitions of freedom and democracy, and shows how libertarianism undermines democracy, civil liberties, and social equality.
Gary Wills "A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government"
(Simon & Schuster 1999) A strong refutation of historical revisionist interpretations of the Founders and Constitution as supporting antigovernment positions.
Donald A. Wittman "The Myth of Democratic Failure: Why Political Institutions Are Efficient"
University of Chicago Press, 1995. "... refutes one of the cornerstone beliefs of economics and political science: that economic markets are more efficient than the processes and institutions of democratic government."

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Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( ).
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